CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – On a snowy Eastern Iowa February day so bitterly cold that liquid water didn’t stand a chance of staying in that state for more than a couple of minutes, young Illinois right-hander Anthony Holubecki somehow managed to make a splash.
Holubecki and his father, Ben, made the drive from their home in the far west Chicago suburb of Elburn, Ill., to Perfect Game’s indoor facility last weekend to take part in the 14th annual Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Showcase.
The event featured more than 80 prospects arriving primarily from a core group of four or five Midwestern states, with the focus on pitching, catching and hitting in the indoor cages.
A 15-year-old sophomore at Kaneland (Ill.) Senior High School, Holubecki spoke with a quiet confidence and wore a ready and willing smile on his face before taking to the mound early Saturday afternoon.
“I wanted to see where I was at physically before the start of the (high school) season,” he said. “I want to get my (velocity) out there because I think I’ve increased it quite a bit since last year. I don’t play any other sports so I’ve focused on baseball all winter and I’ve been doing workouts three times a week and all kinds of pitching stuff.”
Holubecki wasn’t exactly an unknown to Perfect Game’s scouts before last weekend. He pitched for Elite Baseball Training-Chicago at both the 15u PG BCS Finals and the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., last summer, and his fastball reached 88 mph at the BCS event and 86 at the WWBA. At the 15u BCS Finals, Holubecki faced seven batters, striking out four and hitting one with a pitch while also retiring the other two.
He came into the PG P/C Indoor ranked No. 46 overall in the national class of 2016.
That ranking is sure to rise after an outing in which his fastball reached 90 mph while sitting 87-89. At the conclusion of the showcase, Perfect Game vice president of player personnel and scouting David Rawnsley sat down and assembled the Rawlings Top Prospect List, and he didn’t have to think twice about putting Holubecki on top of the other 20 high school sophomores in attendance. Rawnsley wrote:
“Holubecki was one of the revelations of the showcase. He has the prototype pitcher’s build at 6-foot-3 and a slender 190 pounds and is extremely projectable. He pitched in the 88-90 mph range with his fastball and it’s not hard to imagine him as a mid-90’s guy in two years. His curveball had good spin and shape but he tended to slow his arm on release, something that he should be able to correct with repetitions.”
It was exactly the type of report Holubecki and his father were hoping to receive.
“This is the first year that he’s been solely concentrating on baseball and he’s had a long offseason,” Ben said before the outing. “This gives him a little bit of an opportunity to compete a little bit and see some live hitters and get a little bit competitive and see what the work in the offseason has done for him. This will give him a chance to get out here and shake the rust off and let it go a little bit.”
Holubecki is able to train and workout at the Perfect Swing Training Center in Darien, Ill., in DuPage County, not terribly far from his home in Elburn, which is in adjoining Kane County.
Elite Baseball Training-Chicago, an organization that bills itself as “Chicagoland’s premier baseball development group”, has been a good fit for the young right-hander. He got involved with the program through Elite Baseball Training’s head pitching instructor Travis Kerber, who used to give lessons to Holubecki. “It’s been an excellent experience,” he said.
“I think Perfect Game is great; they put on good, quality events with all the best teams there,” Ben said of Anthony’s association both with PG and Elite Baseball Training-Chicago. “If you’re on a really competitive team, sometimes it’s tough to get into competitive tournaments all the time. You want to play at your level or a little above and Perfect Game is really the only place to do that for us. It’s been a great experience for us and every event has been legit that we’ve been to.”
Ben Holubecki has also come to appreciate the specialized training and personal attention Anthony is receiving.
“I worked with him until I figured out that he needed instruction that was beyond what I could give him,” Ben said with a laugh. “I coached him until he was 11 or 12 years old and then we started to figure out that he might have a future in baseball and at that point it was time to get him some professional training and that’s when he’s taken off.”
Although still a 15-year-old high school sophomore – he’ll turn 16 in March – Holubecki has already verbally committed to Notre Dame. He carries a 3.82 GPA and there just wasn’t anything about Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., or the Atlantic Coast Conference that he didn’t like.
“The recruiting process really started for me last summer and Notre Dame started recruiting me,” Holubecki said. “It’s one of the best places in the country – ACC baseball – and it’s one of the best academic schools in the country so it made a lot of sense to me.”
The fact that Holubecki’s commitment to Notre Dame effectively ended his college recruiting process made it all the more remarkable that he chose to attend the PG P/C Indoor Showcase. Could it be he’s already looking ahead to the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft?
“Perfect Game kind of reaches across from the colleges to the pros, unlike some of the other stuff he’s involved with,” Ben said. “I think this helps even though he’s probably not looking at the 2016 (MLB) draft, but you just never know. I think it’s good that Perfect Game gets to see him and gets to see what he really has.”
And don’t look for it to stop. Although Ben said he wasn’t sure how many PG showcases Anthony would attend in the future, he is already planning on playing in at least two PG tournaments this summer with Elite Baseball Training-Chicago. And that’s just fine with Dad.
“I love it. What else would I do all summer?” Ben asked, smiling at the notion. “It’s my entertainment for eight months out of the year. So, yeah, it’s great to see your child progress and be successful; it’s feels good. He puts in a lot of hard work – he works incredibly hard and he’s very determined – so he’s going to take it as far as he can. This is kind of the beginning for us but we’ve got off to a pretty good start, we think.
“If he keeps progressing he’s going to have a shot to play for a long time and that’s a great thing.”